And the Plot Sickens: Lack of Novel-Reading, Writer’s Block, Minimal Driving Practice, and Other Back-to-School Problems

And the Plot Sickens: Lack of Novel-Reading, Writer’s Block, Minimal Driving Practice, and Other Back-to-School Problems

Part of a writer’s job is grabbing every opportunity to read novels written by their peers, whether they’re critically acclaimed, as in New York Times Bestseller, or underground, just getting started. I love reading, but I seem to be reading more of the news from CNN than novels. In my last post, I said I was still halfway through Misery Loves Cabernet by Kim Gruenenfelder, a 2009 romantic novel about a Hollywood personal assistant named Charlie, who has trouble deciding whether she should get back together with Jordan, a photographer who’s working on a movie in Paris, or start a new relationship with Liam, an Irish producer for Charlie’s client Drew’s new movie. I started reading the book at least a couple months before my grandfather died, and out of the 358 pages printed in there I’m on page 258. To be honest, I really should’ve been done with it a long time ago and moved on to another book. But instead, I’ve been over-thinking about a lot of things regarding my future.

I received my driving learner’s permit more than a month ago, and I practiced my driving only twice–with a driving instructor and my stepdad. I drove fine on both occasions, but my stepdad was a little impatient when I nearly hit a curb and approached a little too close to a car ahead of me even I didn’t mean to do any of those things. “Driving is a very serious matter,” my stepdad said. Well, of course I understand that driving is a very serious matter. Otherwise, why would I be such a nervous wreck? I thought to myself. I haven’t done much driving for 21 days, and I think I blame both myself and my stepdad. I blame myself for not getting up very early in the morning to practice driving around town with my stepdad, and I blame him for having minimal sense of time, or lack thereof. I would rather have someone with thrice as much patience and time-management skills as my stepdad to teach me to drive. That way, I’ll be able to pass my driving exam with flying colors and obtain a car of my own in order to drive myself to school and exercise the same social freedoms as everyone else my age. Failure to do so may result in me dropping out of college, remaining unemployed, never getting married, and living with my parents for the rest of my life–all the derogatory autism stereotypes in the book that I DON’T want to live out.

My classes start tomorrow, and my Intro to Ethics class is an online course. I upgraded my laptop to Windows 10 for free, and although the interface and new features are wonderfully sleek, there’s only one problem: Norton. The version of the Norton anti-virus software that I had in Windows 8 is not compatible with Windows 10, so I had to download a new version that’s provided by Comcast (or Xfinity, as the company that licenses Norton, Symantec, advertises). The reason is because, until very recently, my stepdad was a Comcast customer, and every time he buys a new computer he has to install and activate a Norton software provided by the cable company with an account and pin of his own. Now that my mom is the new sole Comcast customer, I’m left with two options: either I create a Norton account and pin under my mom’s name (anything she has to do online, I have to do it for her, anyhow), or create a Norton account myself. Once in a while, my stepdad would ask me if I have been keeping up with the system scans. I have, but if he asks me again and I tell him that I had to download a version of Norton compatible with Windows 10 as part of the upgrade, he might get upset. I have to talk to my mother about this issue before my stepdad does. Such is the curse of being one of those college students who still lives with her parents.

As far as my writing goes…
Like I said some umpteen times before, I’ve been working on my first novel for over a year now, and I feel that I’m suffering from writer’s block because no matter how good my writing skills are–at least to people I know very well–I’m scared that my novel will turn out to be inadequate when it’s published and available to the general public. On top of that, I’m not sure when I’ll ever get it done what with all the studying and other things I have to put up with. They say to write one page a day, but my genius brain thinks it should be more than that. If anyone has any tips on how I can overcome my writer’s block, I would greatly appreciate it.

In fact, I will wholeheartedly appreciate any advice you, my readers, would provide me on all the issues mentioned here.

September is Back-to-School Month, NOT August

At a quarter after 5:00 this morning, I was surfing the Web on my Galaxy S5 in a fit of insomnia when I came across this article on CNN: Back to school: Why August is the new September. The author of this piece, Daphne Sashin, has been asking herself the same question I’ve been pondering myself for years–why the hell does the school year start in August and not after Labor Day in September?

There are 12,000 school districts in the United States, and when the school year should begin depends on the laws in each district. Although public schools in the Northeastern and Northwestern states begin the school year after Labor Day, most Southern states, including my home state of Florida, start the school year at least two weeks before the national holiday if not sooner. I was baffled when I found out that three states–Hawaii, Indiana, and Arizona–already forced the students back to school in late July. Don’t believe me? Take a good look at this map.

Source: CNN
Source: CNN

Turn your attention also to the list of school start dates in Miami-Dade and Broward County.

I tried looking up the school calendars from 1998, when I was in Pre-K, but they didn't turn up. So, I had to start the list from 2001, when I moved to Broward County from Miami at the age of 7. I apologize if my handwriting is illegible for some.
I tried looking up the school calendars from 1998, when I was in Pre-K, but they didn’t turn up. So, I had to start the list from 2001, when I moved to Broward County from Miami at the age of 7. I apologize if my handwriting is illegible for some.

In Florida, all 67 school districts open their schools at least two weeks before Labor Day to allow more instructional time prior to state standardized exams in early spring, the bane of the existence of both students and teachers alike. Earlier this year, the State House had the audacity to pass legislation that would allow schools to start the 2015-2016 academic year as early as August 10, which would make tourist-dependent businesses like Orange County’s Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando lose two to three weeks worth of money than they would if school started later. Then again, it’s up to each district to decide whether or not to change its planned opening to accommodate for said law. If you look closely at the list above, this is not the first time this has happened. When I was in 5th Grade (2005), school started on August 8, which was an unusual start date by even my mother’s standards. They did give me and my brother, who was in 8th Grade at the time, a four-day bereavement period to see our ailing father in Boston the next week but still, they should’ve given us more time to attend his funeral as soon as he passed away by letting school open the same day as our Northeastern cousins: the day after Labor Day.
One year later, Florida’s Legislature was smart enough to enforce the 14 days before Labor Day rule, allowing the state’s school districts to, as the name implies, open their schools two weeks before Labor Day.

When I have kids–if I even want kids at all, that is–I hope they get to see the day when their schools start the academic year in September, not August like my school system. Otherwise, it’s homeschooling for them, and we can start the day after Labor Day. The U.S. Department of Education needs to understand that autumn truly starts in September, NOT August.